Friday, May 22, 2015

The Real Meaning of Memorial Day

Frederick Douglass - May 30 1871
I never got comfortable with the changeover made by Congress in 1971 to move the date for Memorial Day observances to yet another Monday holiday. We observed Memorial Day on May 30 for more than 100 years -  from the end of the Civil War - when the graves of war dead on both sides were honored (decorated, as in Decoration Day) with flags and wreaths. Subsequent wars added more graves and solemnity to the "holiday" but it didn't begin to lose meaning until after 1971.

 Most people love the 3-day weekend and revel in backyard parties, BBQ events and beach outings for this now unofficial start to summer.  I welcome the spring weather, but also wage a patriotic protest every year about the true meaning of this solemn US holiday. And I hang my flags from the porch and plant my geraniums on that weekend.

I try to get to a cemetery observance and listen to the distant bugler play taps, then try not to cringe as the honor guard fires a salute. I even make a point of attending a parade and listening to speeches from dignitaries who help us to remember and honor our war heroes and veterans from all conflicts.

If you want to help share the real message, here's a poster I made featuring the great abolitionist and patriot,  Frederick Douglass, with a brief excerpt from his speech on Decoration Day 1871 at Arlington Cemetery (the entire text is short, but truly inspiring and thought-provoking) about the danger of forgetting just how we got here (and at what cost) as an intact nation with freedoms and rights for all citizens.

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